FOSTORIA - Making a gift from the heart, remembering someone she loves, helps to inspire Staci Phelps' floral creations.
Her business, My Friend & Me, which includes her mother, Carol Phelps, began in 1998 after experiencing a number of deaths in the family. It was then she felt inspired to use her design abilities and love of crafts, in particular florals, to design cemetery saddles and other memorial and graveside arrangements.
From that, she began dabbling in jewelry making, and partnered with a friend who worked in paper crafts. The two formed "My Friend & Me," traveling to craft shows to sell their wares. When her friend decided to stop her involvement, Phelps said her mother became her partner.
She described herself as the designer, with family and friends taking on the roles of managing the business end, purchasing supplies and delivering arrangements to her venue at Bookshelf II and More or to services and cemeteries.
Phelps also sells jewelry and floral designs at area craft shows. "I do as many local events as I can. I have a great customer base," she said.
She also has a full-time job in Bowling Green, which she said makes for times when she has difficulty keeping up. For three hours every weekday evening, she works on jewelry and florals; on weekends, it's anywhere from six to eight hours a day.
"All of the flowers are at my Mom's house," she said. "I do all of the jewelry at my home. I don't have enough room at my house for the flowers, so I keep them there. Plus it's a great way to spend time with my mom."
Many of her supplies come from stores such as Hobby Lobby, although Phelps said she likes to use local vendors if possible.
"I use flowers that are a good quality, that will hold up outside," she said. "I like that my customers have told me that my arrangements last longer than others."
She is excited evergreens will be available to create seasonal grave blankets and pillows.
Phelps said she would like to incorporate different styles and items into her jewelry, including rings.
"I've asked Santa to bring me some special tools so that I could do more beadwork and some soldering that I haven't done before," she said. "I have friends and family try out my jewelry first. And I also like them to try out my flowers, so I know how they will hold up outside. I like that my customers talk about how mine last."
Phelps also does custom designs and creates jewelry for special occasions such as weddings, proms and pageants.
"I really like what I do. I started it because I was making it for someone I knew," Phelps said. "I make it from my heart. If I make it a soft pink color, it is because I was thinking of my grandma. Or perhaps I saw a clerk, she was dressed in a certain way and served as an inspiration to me. I do that for my jewelry also."
She adds bows to her floral pieces, a signature of sorts, and because she considers the cemetery piece to be a gift from the purchaser to their loved one.
"You can't buy them a gift anymore, but you can still make yourself feel good by remembering them," she added.
Her florals start at $5 for crosses to about $40 for the saddles.
Her florals can be purchased at The Bookshelf II and More, 210 S. Main St., Fostoria, or by calling Phelps at (419) 937-6078.